After the Pill: Fertility and Conception

The Misconception

The birth control pill has been around for several decades, and since it arrived on the scene women the world over have relied on it to ensure they will not become pregnant. The freedom gained from these little wonders created a whole new mentality for women. For many years after they first came out, the common thinking was that a woman would have to be off the pill for several months before she could conceive and that if she conceived too soon, there would be a problem either with the pregnancy or the baby.

The Facts

That thinking still prevails in some arenas, however, we now know that you do not have wait after stopping the pill to get pregnant. It is perfectly safe to conceive immediately after coming off the pill and both you and your baby will be just fine. What is important to remember is that it may take some time after you stop the pill for your ovaries to produce and release an egg - to ovulate. Ovulation is critical to conception. Without an egg, there will be no baby. Some women ovulate within a week or two of stopping the pill while others go for months before ovulation begins again. If your periods were irregular before you started taking the pill, there's a chance they may still be irregular now that you've stopped.

In some cases, women who have taken the pill and had regular periods before they went on it have ended up with irregular periods coming off it. Each woman is different and her body will react differently once the pill is stopped.

It takes Time

If you stopped taking the pill two or three months ago and your period hasn't come yet, you might take a pregnancy test just to be sure you haven't conceived. If it is negative, then it may mean your body just needs more time to get back into the swing of things. If ovulation doesn't occur for several more months, a visit to the gynecologist is in order. Otherwise, a short delay of up to six months before ovulation and menstruation is pretty common.

The most common type of birth control pills are combined contraceptives. They contain both estrogen and progesterone and they prevent ovulation by maintaining certain hormone levels and suppressing the hormones that would cause the egg to release from the ovary. So, you don't ovulate. During the time you are on the pill, you do not ovulate. The period you have every 28 days while on the pill is simply bleeding that occurs as a result of the sudden drop in hormones when you are taking the placebo during the one week of the month. The placebo doesn't have hormones, so you bleed. Since the cycle is controlled by the pills, if you were taking oral contraceptives, you probably got used to having a period every 28 days. As soon as you stop taking the pills the suppression of the hormones that cause ovulation stops. Your body now has to start hormone production of its own and it can take some time to get back into the rhythm of production. Remember, your regular monthly period is usually the result of ovulation, not the reverse. Your fertility is contingent on your ovulation.

No Ovulation - No Pregnancy

In order to get pregnant you have to ovulate. Menstruation is the result of the natural decrease of hormones that occurs about 14 days after you ovulate. On average, women take one to three months to regain regular ovulation after the pill - sometimes it is sooner, sometimes later. The first sign that you are ovulating is when you get a menstrual period - an indication that things are going back to normal.

The condition called post-pill amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation after stopping the pill and it is seen in about one in 30 women who stop taking oral contraceptives. It's difficult to tell when you are ovulating if your period isn't coming or isn't regular.

If you are trying to conceive and you are concerned about your fertility after the pill, you can use some of the common ways to track ovulation so you can determine your fertility.

· Try the basal body temperature method

· Check cervical mucus

· Purchase an ovulation prediction kit

Any of these methods will help you know when you are ovulating so you can plan your conception. 

Learn about conception coming off the pill. 

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